Challenges should be enjoyed in life, but preparing a list of the best releases of 2015 is inordinately difficult. Attempting to rate a metal release against a punk band’s EP, is much like comparing apples to oranges. More accurately, it’s comparing steak to lobster, both delightful but completely different. (Maybe a parfait metaphor should be used for an indie folk release).
The musical taste of The Antidote leans towards metal and hard rock. So it came as a surprise that the majority of notable releases on our 2015 list are of a mellower style. Included on the list are both full length albums and shorter releases as a growing number of artists produce only EP’s, each has equal status on our list.
Enjoy the diversity. Here’s The Antidote Top 10 of 2015:
10. WE ARE THE CITY – Above Club
After the success of WATC’s Violent release. Above Club is a compact album, containing only eight tracks, yet feels much longer than it’s brief 25 minutes running time, because so much has been included on every song. Sonic complexities abound, lo-fi audio aspects, syncopated rhythms, huge drums, and distorted synths, run rampant throughout Above Club.
9. THE OLD-TIMERS – Turn It Off / Turn It Up! EP’s
We’re only at number 9 and already the rules are being changed. Indeed, Turn It Off and Turn It Up! are two separate EP’s, but were simultaneously released and designed to be played back to back. This South Africa based hardcore punk band let loose as they challenge us to improve the lives of marginalized members of society and to take a pro-active stance in matters of faith and our actions. True punk with a hard message.
8. RAVENHILL – Soul
Ravenhill has stood in the background of the music scene for a number of years. That all changed with the release of Soul. The band dropped many of the traditional trappings found in the recording studio and delivered a sound accurate to their dynamic live performances. The nature of the album also remains true to it’s title, as the songs focus on the soul of the modern day believer. This is raw and dirty rock and roll with influences of punk, gospel, jazz, blues, grunge, indie, hard-core, soul, and classic rock. Soul is crafted as a rough hewn gem that needs no polish.
7. JOSH GARRELS – Home
The music of Josh Garrels can never be adequately described. Lush, soulful, and reaching incredible levels, it leaves a a permanent mark after a single listen. Garrels has shown on Home, his ninth album, that his abilities never waver. Mellower and more lyrically subdued than his previous releases. Garrels has proven with Home that he remains intimately attuned to the divine and that the album may be one of the most soulfully honest found to be found.
6. ATTALUS – Into the Sea
The concept album Into the Sea from Attalus is remarkable in a numerous ways. Firstly its of gargantuan length with 16 tracks and 78 minutes running time. Nominally it has a post-hardcore sound, but the album crosses genre boundaries over the course of the album. It’s intriguing tale of it’s protagonist’s journey on the sea is a deep tale using the ocean as a metaphor for a quest for understanding of faith.
5. FALLSTAR – Future Golden Age
Future Golden Age doesn’t fit into a single genre placement. The album bridges an artistic chasm as it spans the breadth of music, all the way from soft rock to metal. The album carries a beautifully melodic tone with drama and flair, while retaining the band’s historically energetic delivery. This album is angry. Angry at societies apathy, social injustice, war, and at our indifference to the less fortunate in this world. Fallstar conveys this righteous anger with the hope that the message won’t fall on deaf ears.
4. BURLAP TO CASHMERE – Freedom Souls
The newest creation of Burlap To Cashmere Freedom Souls is full of surprises, huge surprises. While continuing with their definitive Greek folk influenced alternative rock, the band has gone further, creating a fresh vibrancy by gathering in a broad diversity of styles. This new sound challenges both the band and the listener.
3. NF – Mansion
Nate Feuerstein has taken his moniker NF and album Mansion to the top. His incredible voice is equally capable of passionately aggressive rapping and smooth blended vocals. Drawing upon issues from his troubled past and the walls he’s needed climb to make his voice heard, NF has delivered the best hip hop of the year. Accolades were given to last year’s Anomaly by Lecrae, that praise may be permamently redirected to the talent of NF with the success of Mansion.
2. VOCAL FEW – The Dream Alive EP
Husband and wife folk/pop duo Matt and Kristie MacDonald are the Vocal Few. Their new release,The Dream Alive, is the pinnacle of what can be done with an acoustic guitar and perfect vocal harmonizing. On first listen, The Dream Alive comes across as frosting on a cake. But lyrically the truth comes out. Delving into a deep look at various facets of love, relationships, and harsh realities in life , The Dream Alive, contains a reminder that life, love and dreams may not always be the fairy tale we desire. The EP’s opener, “The Corner Dwellers”, is unquestionably the greatest song of 2015.
1. SUFJAN STEVENS – Carrie & Lowell
Our number one release of 2015, Carrie & Lowell from Sufjan Stevens will remain in memory as the most difficult to absorb. Though lyrically dealing with the death of his mother and his relationship with his stepfather, the release can’t be considered a eulogy. Few uplifting moments are encountered on Carrie & Lowell. This continuing despondency may be arduous to endure, yet it’s captivating to follow.
Carrie & Lowell delivers a brilliant dichotomy of whispered vocals and stripped down music while dealing with profound darkness. Artists tend to speak from their hearts, but not to the degree that Stevens has with Carrie & Lowell. This is a gut wrenching baring of the hurt that he endured. Whether the album was created to bring resolution to the soul of Stevens can be debated, but it’s artistry and dark beauty is undeniable.
Honorable mentions in alphabetical order:
Author– Of Brighter Days
Dissident Prophet – Red Moon Rising
Falling Up – Falling Up
Judgement Day – The Altar
Low & Behold – Uppers
Metanoia – Chili-Nation
mewithoutYou – Pale Horses
The Ongoing Concept – Handmade
Within Silence – Gallery of Life
Feature image courtesy Gareth Williams. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gareth1953/